To the Editor:
As an educator I take exception to Paul Goodman’s sweeping indictments of American teachers and teaching. To people who verbalize easily and then make their living by vilifying those around them, I always feel impelled to ask a familiar rhyme from a journalism class: Who, what, when, where, why, and how?
What does Mr. Goodman define as impossible overcrowding (I don’t deny overcrowding)? For the schools on triple session I believe there are 1, 5, 10, 100 (?) on single session. To be really honest (which Mr. Goodman is not) he would have to define and locate IMPOSSIBLE overcrowding. (Public schools rarely go over 40; parochial schools may have 90 per room!)
I would like an enumeration of the spurious aims he talks of so glibly. I do not deny the presence of some superficial teachers, the lack of insight that may be present, but does he really expect any phase of human endeavor to be much more different?
I deny emphatically that in the area I work in (Mr. Goodman’s may be different) our aims are to relieve the home, to keep the kids quiet, to produce physicists. True, we try to “keep them quiet” but this is one aim in a line of many aims! Surely the author will agree with me that learning is suspended when hands and body and eyes and mind are occupied elsewhere?
Why TIMID supervisors? How about the aggressive ones? . . . I could go on through the whole section on education which shows lack of honesty, taste, and real thought. It shows a willingness to reach for the fast buck by use of a facile tongue, in collaboration with a keen nose to scent the lay of the land.
I am curious as to a solution of the sex problem. How does he handle emotional release? How about a 250-word definition of “mis-educating”?
There is the creative individual who uses exaggeration to emphasize his message. Generally they confine themselves to the more sensuous of the arts—sound and color. Cartooning with words is not a completely unknown form—but I believe that Mr. Goodman wrote all this “for real”!
Frances W. Jordan
Los Angeles, California
To the Editor:
I read with great interest the article by Paul Goodman. To be sure there is much to be desired in our culture, but I think Mr. Goodman’s criticism would have been more valid if he did not use delinquency as an example. Specific knowledge is required to understand so complex a subject as delinquency. Those directly concerned with it or its prevention are well aware of the fact that it existed even when there were “manly jobs” available. Since delinquency is a behavior and personality syndrome, with multiple causes, the remedies are also multiple.
As a social worker I must take exception to Mr. Goodman’s remark that “conditions that produce delinquency cannot be remedied by gimmicks or social work.” Social workers who have worked in the areas of crime, its prevention, and child welfare, have too much firsthand knowledge to say that social work is the sole answer. However, we do know from experience that one of the answers is more social work and not less.
“Youth Opportunity Centers” will be helpful to a certain number of the delinquent children, but many of them will not be helped without an intensive social work program in conjunction with the camps.
It is a known fact that the delinquency rate is extremely low among Jews. There are many factors responsible for this, i.e., structure of Jewish family life, high ethical standards, etc., but there is also the fact that the Jewish community provided highly developed social work programs over many years, to work out problems of Jewish youngsters in relation to whatever society they live in.
Delinquency is easy relatively to measure; prevention difficult. When one provides a foster home for a child and also provides a variety of services—case work, psychiatry, recreation, vocational guidance, etc.—and at the same time makes efforts to rehabilitate the broken home, one is preventing delinquency.
Regardless of any changes in our environment there will always be those families and children who will require individual help.
(Mrs.) Ada Slawson
New York City
To the Editor:
There is a sentence in Paul Goodman’s article in your February number, which I would like to call into question. Mr. Goodman writes: “A boy has a few great sexual adventures, but then he has had the bad luck to get caught and get in trouble.” May I ask (1) what the meaning of the word “great” is in this sentence, and (2) on what evidence—or hunch—Mr. Goodman bases his meaning?
Lacking a fuller explanation, one cannot help suspecting that a very old-fashioned form of literary piety has insinuated itself here, namely, the notion that any group or class or race which is disadvantaged socially, politically, and economically yet retains some mysterious and exemplary control over its sexual powers. At various times the working class, the Jews, and the Negro have served as vehicles for this notion; lately Norman Mailer has narrowed it to the hipster, and Mr. Goodman now follows up with juvenile delinquents or future candidates for delinquency. Of course he may be right, but he owes us a few facts. In short, is this word “great” derived from the observation of actual experience or is it only another example of literary romance?
New York City
To the Editor:
Politicians, sociologists, social workers—step aside! “You’re all wet,” so says Mr. Goodman in his fantastic role of panacea-giver. “All you have to do, my friends, to cure juvenile delinquency, is to find ‘manly work’ for these misfits. All else is nonsense.”
As I read the article, I saw the cracked skull of the UN diplomat, assaulted in Central Park; I saw the baffled, humiliated expression of the nurse raped in a Brooklyn subway after her humdrum tour of duty in her hospital. (According to Mr. Goodman’s thesis, this was hardly manly work, and she should have gone JD instead, and saved herself a nasty beating.) I saw the tragic sorrow of an East Side community when a gentle, humble little restaurant owner was murdered by one of the objects of Mr. Goodman’s solicitude who only “ask for many opportunities to work.” Mr. Goodman’s thesis that anyone is stopping them from finding work is too funny to be disputed.
What about the little storekeeper working sixteen hours a day, seven days a week for the doubtful privilege of being in business for himself? Is he doing manly work, and if not, shall he not go berserk and take his frustrations out on society? What about the millions of workers in government offices who spend their days filling out forms and clipping papers together (many of them college graduates)? Are they doing “manly work”? And if not, ought they not go JD? In short, Mr. Goodman is more absurd than the public officials he criticizes and the social workers he scoffs at.